Loudoun’s new bus plans: ‘Beautiful … like a big plate of spaghetti’

WASHINGTON — When Silver Line service begins to Dulles Airport and Ashburn just under three years from now, county officials hope at least 27 new or revised bus routes in Loudoun County will lure people out from behind the wheel.

At a board of supervisors Transit Summit Monday night, County Transit Operations Manager Scott Gross described the new map of planned 2020 service as “beautiful … like a big plate of spaghetti with red and green and yellow lines on it.”

The revised routes will change existing local bus service and Metro connections, but are expected to leave commuter bus service largely untouched.

County surveys find many commuter bus riders into and out of D.C. would not likely see Metro as their alternative. Commuter bus riders have an average household income around $146,000 per year, while local bus riders in Loudoun have an estimated annual household income around $24,000.

A number of the local bus routes are in line for cuts due to ridership and revenue numbers, but the transit summit largely focused on longer-term problems, since planning and bus purchases for service to the new Silver Line stations needs to be completed relatively soon.

Gross hopes the increased development and additional service will draw more riders to the bus system, to keep traffic from getting even worse — and help the bus system’s bottom line.

“As the demographics in the county change … we have a younger population moving in, and folks that are used to transit that aren’t worried about driving their cars. A lot of the people in this county right now, and … for the last 15 or 20 years, would rather get in their cars and drive somewhere. They’re not used to having bus systems here,” he said.

Citizen committees on aging and disability access said those groups also want more service to be added to any new plans that are further developed over the next few years.

“We only have a couple bites at the apple,” Supervisor Ralph Buona said.

He said the initial route map for the Silver Line service had a “donut hole” of missing service in the Ashburn area. Other supervisors expressed some similar concerns about the initial plans, including a desire for more service pickups in neighborhoods as opposed to park-and-ride lots.

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